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Strange Funeral Rites - Terrific Traditions
804    Dibyendu Banerjee    24/07/2019   

Modern people would be horrified and disgusted to know about the funerary rituals of the Yanomami community, living in the villages within the Amazon Rainforest, along the border of Venezuela and Brazil. They do not believe that death is a natural occurrence of life and strongly believe that the soul of the departed person may come back and take shelter in some other living body.

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To avoid the possibility of their coming back and to ensure the peace of their soul, they want to dispose the body of the deceased as soon as possible. Naturally, to bury a body after death and leaving it to decay, which may take months together, is a truly horrifying prospect for them. They, therefore, practice their traditional death ritual of endocannibalism, eating the flesh of the dead.

Strange Funeral Rites

The Yanomami views cremation as liberating and burials to be morbid, as the process of decomposition is a slow and a tedious process. Before cremation, the tribe members carry the body to the forest, which is not very far from the shaman or the hut of the deceased and left it there, after covering the body with leaves. They wait for 30 to 45 days to allow the nature to take its due course and then, collect the bones to follow the usual procedure of cremation.

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After cremation, the residual ashes of the bones of the deceased are properly mixed with a soup made from fermented bananas. It is mandatory for all the members of the community to consume the soup mixed with the ashes. For swift and smooth accomplishment of the process, big bowls made from gourds are used to serve the soup among kin members one by one, so that the consumption is usually finished in one sitting.

Preparation of the soup
Preparation of the soup
Consuming the soup mixed with the ashes
Consuming the soup mixed with the ashes

However, the ritual of consuming the soup of ashes in one sitting is exempted, only if the enemies kill the Yanomami man. In that exceptional case, instead of the entire community, only the women of the community should consume the soup and that too on the night, when a revenge raid is commissioned successfully. Thus, the procedure can be practically stalled for years, until the tribe becomes satisfied about taking the revenge, as the tribe believes that, the soul of the dead can make the peaceful transition to the spiritual world only after being avenged.

Lotus feet, China Fulani Whip Match, W Africa
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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